I WANT to believe in men

In case you have been in a coma, or on holiday somewhere without internet or television or print media or anything of that sort, I will begin with a short recap.

Gillette released a commercial, this week, challenging the idea that men are, already, “the best [they] can get.” The commercial is a work of art. I would ask you to spend some time reading the comments on that, but I’ll recommend you don’t bother. They’re not worth the bandwidth.

See, what happened, the moment the ad ran, was that a swath of insecure, childish men lost their poor, ego-driven minds. The ad basically says, Hey, men! We believe that we can all be better than we have been. Better than the sexually harassing, bullying, rapey assholes we’ve so long been able to get away with being. 

And a huge host of men responded with a resounding, NO WE CANNOT AND HOW VERY DARE YOU! I’ve spent a great deal of time, the last couple of days, laughing at them for their transparent and quite unflattering pearl-clutching. Their anger, their fragile masculinity, their absurdly hilarious attempt to “boycott” Gillette, their silly youtube videos, in which they are throwing away their razors, have all had me laughing. Rueful, sad laughter, but laughter nonetheless.

There’s something here, though, that really isn’t funny. Gillette basically said they believed in men, in their ability to overcome years of toxic conditioning, to become better human beings. And instead of being flattered that someone believed in them so much, men got angry. Furious. Enraged.

Which points to the reasons why the message was so essential in the first place.

I’m not as optimistic as Gillette seems to be. I don’t believe that men, if taken as a whole, can be all that much better. Not when so many of them react to a simple and uplifting commercial this way. I don’t believe.

But I want to. I want to so very much.

Now, I don’t hate men. On the contrary, my three favorite people in the entire world are men, or (in the case of one) will be, in a few years. I love men. I love several men who have been in my life, throughout my life. I care about a more than a few others. And most of those men, the men I know and choose to have in my life, are kind, compassionate, intelligent, and secure enough in their masculinity to recognize that someone pointing out the parts of masculinity which are toxic is not attacking them, personally. They’re nurturing and giving and eager to learn how to be their best selves. I know they are not the only ones, either. I know there are plenty of other men who are much like them, men I haven’t yet had the pleasure to know.

Unfortunately, I’ve also had a great deal of experience with the other side of masculinity. I’ve known a virtual mob of men who are likely among those currently throwing their razors in the garbage, without a hint of self awareness, nor the desire to acquire any such thing. I’ve been on the receiving end of what they consider masculinity. I’ve been interrupted, talked over, condescended to, mansplained to, shushed and brushed aside, because I’m a woman. Online, I’ve been threatened with stalking, rape, and even death, as well as told to kill myself. I’ve been catcalled, wolf-whistled, harassed in school, work, and many other public places. I’ve been handled, groped. patted, pinched, tickled, picked up, had my ass slapped and my hair pulled, all without my consent. I’ve been molested, and I’ve been raped. I’ve been emotionally, financially, psychologically, and physically abused, all by men I loved, who claimed to love me.

These experiences, in sheer number, far outweigh the good experiences I’ve had with men, in my forty years on this spinning rock. Still, I want to believe.

I want to believe that men can learn as children not to be bullies, not to use fear and anger as tools to intimidate those who are weaker than they are, and not to harm the ones who won’t give them their way. I want to believe that men can learn affirmative, enthusiastic consent, can move beyond “No means no,” and into the land of “Only yes means yes.” That men can learn how to be vulnerable without being either drunk or ashamed, especially with other men. That men can learn to hold one another accountable for their unwanted sexual advances and other sexist behavior. That they can teach their sons to use words instead of fists to solve problems, and that respecting women is the truly masculine thing to do. That they can learn the value of emotional labor, and begin to both appreciate it, and carry more of that load.

want to believe this. At the moment, though, all evidence seems to prove otherwise.

I still believe it’s possible, but I think it’s likely to happen very slowly, given the resistance of those whose participation in this initiative is so necessary.

In the meantime, I will continue to view new men in my life with the studied and logical wariness with which I have learned, all my life, to view all men who enter my world. I will ask them the questions that the Gillette ad asked of men around the globe, and so many more, to determine if they are the type of men I want to know, want to be around, want to have in my life. In the meantime, I will keep hoping, keep talking with my sons about what a real man truly looks like, and keep debating the social and political realities of the world we live in with the adult men in my life.

And I will continue to hope that one day, I can believe in men.

 

Dedicated to Brandy, who said I’d better write some more, soon.

So, where do we start? Pizza

In this post, I think it was pretty clearly established that rape culture exists. Really. It’s a thing.

And the thing is HUGE. It encompasses so many different aspects of our perceptions, our sexuality, our conditioning, our discourse, our education, and our values, as well as, I’m sure, about a bajillion things I haven’t even yet considered. It’s pretty overwhelming. Over and over again, I see people asking how we combat something so pervasive, so surreptitiously intertwined with so much of our lives. I have addressed this in kink-specific ways, before, and will do so in more depth, sometime in the near future, but let’s look, first, at the bigger picture.

American sexuality, as a whole, is some pretty crazy-making stuff. There are contradictions and extremes and uninformed ideas abounding.

I think that we start by changing the way we think about sex, and the way we discuss it with one another and our children. The way we educate ourselves and others.

Sexual educator Al Vernacchio has some eye-opening thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to share them with you.

Heather Corrina, at Scarleteen, has some very interesting thoughts on this, too. It’s a long, somewhat trudging read, but well worth the effort. If you’re not willing to slog through it, though, I’ll try to hit some of the high points with my own thoughts here.

Our cultural ideas around sex and sex education are not only heteronormative and sexist, they’re also pretty confusing. Men are seen as the pursuers, and women the gatekeepers, of sexual interaction. Sex is seen as competitive, instead of cooperative. It is focused on the result, rather than the motives and desires and pleasure involved in the process.

Our attitudes about sex are simultaneously absurdly puritanical, and highly influenced by pornography.

Society tells heterosexual girls that they have to remain ‘pure’ until they marry, or find some ephemeral “true love.”

It tells heterosexual boys that it’s their job to “score,” to pursue as much sex as possible, and be experienced enough to show their partners a good time.

And if you don’t fall into binary gender roles, or narrowly defined acceptable sexual orientations? Mostly, society tells you that you’re just wrong.

Society tells us that orgasm is the only valuable goal of sex.

Talking about sex is embarrassing. Sex is the most awe-inspiring thing in the whole wide world… yet it’s also too shameful to discuss openly.

Verrnacchio and Carrina offer some really simple alternatives.

Let’s start talking about sex the way it actually is. As a cooperative endeavor towards mutual pleasure, rather than a competition or a commodity or a tally sheet or a dirty little secret.

I know, if you’ve lived with shushiness around sex for most of your life, thatsounds really difficult, but it isn’t.

I had a talk with my daughter about this, just last night. We’ve already talked about safer sex practices and risk awareness and birth control and sexual development, several times. Until I saw that TED talk, though, I think I’d missed the most important part.

So, last night, I told her we were going to talk about sex. I told her that, when she’s making the decision about whether or not she is ready to engage in any kind of sexual activity, there was one single consideration that should be the first and most important, not just the first time, but every time. A question she should ask herself.

“Do you, without considering any other factor, really want to have sex?

Are you really into it? Would you want it without being pressured in any way?

Not because someone has ‘earned it’ from you. Not because you owe it to them. Not because they want it, and you want to make them happy. Not because you don’t want to be alone. Not because you’re married, or in some other kind of committed relationship. Not because you’ve already gone to “third base.” Not because you’ve done it before. Not because you haven’t done it before, and think you should. Not because you’re sad. Not because you’re feeling unattractive. Not because someone else is telling you that you should want it. Not because you’re ‘giving it up.’ Not because of how anyone will see you, after, or how they see you, now.

Because you’re hungry for it. Because you are excited and ready and your body and mind are both screaming “YES!!!”

That’s why you should have sex. It’s the only reason anyone should have sex.

And in order to do that, you need to be able to talk about it. Not just about the things you don’t want, although that’s essential ground to cover, but about the things you do want. About the things you think you might want, but aren’t so sure. About what you know you like, and know you don’t like. About your experiences and your fantasies, your turn-ons, and your turn-offs.

About when you want to order the pizza, what you want on it, and how you want to eat it.

Pizza. O.O

Al Vernacchio, you’re fucking brilliant when it comes to fucking.